On CGI Icebergs and geometric sun-spots (Starbursts and Lens Flares).

It is so easy to target the tip of the spear, and the suficial aspects of the titular Titanic iceburg…
But one just has to go to a clip like the yearly “stargate studios” portfolio (2009, CSI:NY, Driving, 2010, Defying Gravity)  reels (or now “Blue-Bolt“, and all that Game of Thrones madness [Cello is officially a wicked awesome instrument that ought to be used in all music mashes ar mish])… and see what the CGI tool means in the long run (and in the ‘small game’). This is a short period of perceived “ugliness”… where we are so immersed in this transition, that we don’t appreciate how truly incredible (and rapid) some of the leaps have been.

When Nog got his first colour… he abused it… used too much, overdid the tints, made garish hand-print art… blah blah… all tools will be abused… but that doesn’t mean all tools cause abuse.

Orange and blue colour correction, HDR, Time/FrameRate-manipulation, Super slow, super-fast, the list can be continually added to (nuclear technology anyone?) tools WILL be abused… that doesn’t mean that you are an iconoclast for laconically lamenting the downfall of all civilization based on “overuse of CGI”… it isn’t the “CGI” that is “ruining” anything; what does bother any given person is a game of guesses, but CGI is a tool that is finding it’s equilibrium.

Moderation is a virtue.  Not everyone is virtuous all the time, right?


Chill out.  Give time.  Or, iconoclastically declare that you are the ultimate arbiter, and that everything “today” sucks (have you re-watched days of thunder recently?  Or that everything that once was “real” is now “fake”… see how absurd that reads?)

It means I don’t have to go to Rome, and rope off this one street in my head (the street need not even exist), when I make that one movie about the story where there is a vaguely inconsequential scene in Rome, but I would prefer to have it in the movie, but travel is simply not in any budget, or I can let my imaginary sandwich-compensated unprofessional actors concentrate on acting, rather than keep butting in for some easily fixable visual hindrance “the light looks all wrong, and there is supposed to be rain on the windows!  Yes, I hate actors, and long for the day when I have the tools to operate a puppet that can input actions and wrap those movements onto any character model (customizable) I choose.  Also set designers are terrible people, who I dream of replacing with a massive shared and open library of real life 3d image based rendering models of spaces (sarcasm, those people are all wonderful, and tech is not at this point, but it is coming closer, so we should think about it, and be ready, and not simply reactionary but it will open a new world of stories, both smaller, more intimate, and far grander…

I measure “cgi” against what it follows from: ADR. Yes, early ADR was occasionally excessive, and, to a ‘knowledgable folk’ it was clearly fakery (please read the tv tropes page on “The Coconut Effect” (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheCoconutEffect), and it actually took a long time to even make it feasible, not to mention worthwhile, or even valuable to a production.

But, like CGI, ADR, and “sound-design”, all are means of “extending” (beyond the “theatrical/stage” realities) the scope of a production. An augmented reality. If you think story telling (in book, novel, ebook, tome, epic, short story, cgi animation, stop motion, live action, tv, movie, film, video) is anything other than using the tools at hand to share an augmented reality… you have a very ingrained idea set on what it means to share thoughts. Sharing thoughts is nigh impossible, even with a tool set as large as a modern dictionary/encyclopedia and thesaurus… it is still tragically common to have misunderstandings, miscommunications and misleadings, all in daily interactions… now transpose that into telling made up, even counter factual fictions…

In the long run these tools will brings story telling back to where it was thousands of years ago… to the hands of capable minds, to the individuals… you lose the context of a writers words as you transliterate them to the screen… but so too do you lose a directors vision, or a screenwriters imagining as you incorporate the hundreds of people used on modern film sets… this is not to say that the massively multiplayer collaborative works which are our modern film projects aren’t beautiful, and unique, and interesting… I just think that it will also be really neat when the loner can have a chance of crafting a visual experience, and it has only the creators input (this is not to set the two ideas against each other, only to say that it will be nice to see both forms of creativity… as a new breed of musicians arose with the advent of the home/personal/mobile digital studio, and with digital stills, where a learner could practice, learn and experiment with infinitely disposable “digital images”…. And not be on the hook for processing, printing, studio expenses…

The world of visual motion expression is coming to the individual, and unlike the cynics, I don’t forsee this as fostering some ME ME ME superculture… the whole point of creating is, yes, as catharsis, but moreso… for an audience, to share ideas, and concepts.

Now, 12 angry men, and many of the follow-on “one set”/”bottle movies“/stage pieces actually are things I love.

But I wouldn’t love a world where all movies were limited to this. It is about balance, moderation. It was a virtue way back when, and it continues to be so.

Next time; Talking about greenscreen and CGI; or why what everyone complains about in the “new” Star Wars is not actually the CGI, but rather the MODELS (BYRONICALLY, all of the rended garments and laconic lamentations on “the downfall of star wars” [doom doom domm], I might one day argue it is physical models and their greenScreening in which people find flat and unimpressive… not the CGI, which, I might try to argue, is less often noticed [what people don’t like about The Binks character has to do with it speaking ENGLISH… he needs to be ADR’ed with a mix of “duck” and an algorithmic modulation…

It isn’t the “cgi” of the character that makes it feel forced or fake… it is the window dressings.  Please make your laconic lamentations more accurate.  PSA for accuracy in laconic lamentations.  Next Week; Accuracy in laconic lamentions about religion in discussions on the internet.  Once we work on accuracy, perhaps we can move on to The difference between Accuracy and Precision.

The Next Grand Challenge; making reliable information extraction toolsets (aka WATSON)

IBM Centennial Film: They Were There - People who changed the way the world works

IBM – Expert interviews: Healthcare:


Building Watson – A Brief Overview of the DeepQA Project

Continue reading The Next Grand Challenge; making reliable information extraction toolsets (aka WATSON)

Memento Project; using URI’s to build integration of preservation capabilities into standard Web practices.

Memento wants to make it as straightforward to access the Web of the past as it is to access the current Web.
If you know the URI of a Web resource, the technical framework proposed by Memento allows you to see a version of that resource as it existed at some date in the past, by entering that URI in your browser like you always do and by specifying the desired date in a browser plug-in [FireFox Plugin for time-traveling on the web].

Memento allows you to actually browse the Web of the past by selecting a date and clicking away. Whatever you land upon will be versions of Web resources as they were around the selected date. Obviously, this will only work if previous versions are available somewhere on the Web. But if they are, and if they are on servers that support the Memento framework, you will get to them.

Memento: Time Travel for the Web
This project seeks to integrate preservation capabilities into standard Web practices. The project assumes that the core technologies for creating a “preservation-ready” web are in place; what is needed is a concerted, high-profile effort to instantiate the technologies in simple protocols, methodologies and software.

(Memento just won the 2010 digital preservation award)

The Memento project researches new ideas related to Web Archiving, focusing on the integration of Web Archives into a natural and regular Web navigation.

This Memento experiment is supported by the Library of Congress under the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.

Backgrounder; Online Society: the good the bad and the ugly

Lawrence Lessig and Jimmy Wales at the iCommon...
Image via Wikipedia

This page is for additional resources regarding the three interlocutors on the MIT discussion panel titled “The good, the bad, and the ugly”.

Yochai Benkler: Publications

The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom (Yale Press 2006).

(or, you can check out Yale Press’s cool new annotation platform for the book)


On Cooperation and Cooperative Human Systems Design

Law, Policy, and Cooperation, in Balleisen, Edward, and David Moss, eds. Government and Markets: Toward a New Theory of Regulation, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming

Dynamic Remodeling of in-group bias during the 2008 Presidential Election, PNAS, March 31, 2009; with David Rand, Thomas Pfeiffer, Anna Dreber, Rachel Sheketoff, and Nils Wernerfelt

On Commons in Information and Communications Systems

Commons-Based Peer Production and Virtue, 14(4) J. Political Philosophy 394-419 (2006); with Helen Nissenbaum

“Sharing Nicely”: On shareable goods and the emergence of sharing as a modality of economic production, 114 Yale L. J. 273 (2004)

Commons-Based Strategies and the Problems of Patents, 305 Science 1110 (Aug. 20, 2004)

Coase’s Penguin,or Linux and the Nature of the Firm, 112 Yale Law Journal 369 (2002)

Freedom in the Commons, Towards a Political Economy of Information, 52 Duke L.J. 1245 (2003) (Frey Lecture audio)

Common Wisdom: Peer Production of Educational Materials, Center for Open and Sustainable Learning, 2005, or you can get a print version here.

The Political Economy of Commons, Upgrade, Vol. IV., No.3 June 2003

The Battle Over the Institutional Ecosystem in the Digital Environment, 44 Communications of the ACM No.2 84 (2001)

Property, Commons, and the First Amendment: Towards a Core Common Infrastructure (White Paper for the Brennan Center for Justice) (March, 2001)

From Consumers to Users: Shifting the Deeper Structures of Regulation Towards Sustainable Commons and User Access, 52 Fed. Comm. L.J. 561 (2000)

Free as the Air to Common Use: First Amendment Constraints on Enclosure of the Public Domain, 74 N.Y.U. Law Review 354 (1999)

Overcoming Agoraphobia: Building the Commons of the Digitally Networked Environment, 11 Harvard Journal of Law & Technology 287 (1998)

The Commons As A Neglected Factor of Information Policy (working draft presented at Telecommunications Policy Research Conference 9/98)

On Exclusive Rights Regimes

Sharing, Trading, Creating Culture (reviewing Lessig, Remix), Science, 324 (5925):337 – 338 (2009).

with Amy Kapczynski, Samantha Chaifetz, and Zachary Katz, Addressing Global Health Inequities: An Open Licensing Approach for University Innovations, 20 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 1031 (2005).

Intellectual Property and the Organization of Information Production, 22 Int’l Rev. of L. & Ec. 81 (2002). (Working Draft 10/99, available for reference to quotations to the working paper, 10/99)An Unhurried View of Private Ordering in Information Transactions, 53 Vanderbilt Law Rev. 2063 (2000) (with better renditions of Figures 1 and 2)

Constitutional Bounds of Database Protection: The Role of Judicial Review in the Creation and Definition of Private Rights in Information, 15 Berkeley L. & Tech. J. 535 (2000)

Open Spectrum, or Spectrum Commons

Some Economics of Wireless Communications, 16 Harvard Journal of Law & Technology 25 (Fall 2002)Overcoming Agoraphobia: Building the Commons of the Digitally Networked Environment, 11 Harvard Journal of Law & Technology 287 (1998)

Net Gains: Is CBS Unconstitutional? (with Lawrence Lessig) The New Republic, December 14, 1998

Siren Songs and Amish Children: Autonomy, Information, and Law, 76 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 23, 62-84, 87-105 (2001).

Democracy, Autonomy, and Information: Theoretical and Constitutional Analysis

Through the Looking Glass: Alice and Constitutional Foundations of the Public Domain, 66 J. Law & Contemp. Probs. 173 (Winter/Sring 2003)

Siren Songs and Amish Children: Autonomy, Information, and Law, 76 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 23 (2001)Free as the Air to Common Use: First Amendment Constraints on Enclosure of the Public Domain, 74 N.Y.U. Law Review 354 (1999)
Free Markets vs. Free Speech: A Resilient Red Lion and it Critics, Reviewing Rationales and Rationalizations, Regulating the Electronic Media (Robert Corn-Revere, ed.) 8 Int’l J. L. & Information Tech. 214 (2000)

Internet Regulation Generally

Communications Infrastructure Regulation and the Distribution of Control Over Content, 22(3) Telecommunications Policy 183 (1998)Net Regulation: Taking Stock and Looking Forward, 71 Colorado Law Rev. 331 (2000)

Internet Regulation: A Case Study in the Problem of Unilateralism, 11 European J. of Int’l L. 167 (2000)

Rules of the Road for the Information Superhighway : Electronic Communication and the Law (West Publishing, 1996 & 1997 supp.)

Selected Commentary and Op-Eds by Cass R. Sunstein

At Unease, in The New Republic, at 41 (September 6, 1999) (Book Review of Don’t: A Reader’s Guide to the Military’s Anti-Gay Policy by Janet E. Halley) (Word version)

Cash and Citizenship, in The New Republic, at 42 (May 24, 1999) (Book Review of The Stakeholder Society by Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott) (Word version)

Why We Should Celebrate Paying Taxes, in The Chicago Tribune, at 19 (April 14, 1999) (with Stephan Holmes) (Word version)

The Courts’ Perilous Right Turn, in The New York Times, at 25 (June 2, 1999) (discussing current judicial activism by conservative courts) (Word version)

Vanity Fair, in The New Republic (March 29, 1999) (Book Review of Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails to Satisfy in an Era of Excess by Robert H. Frank) (Word version)

Originalism for Liberals, in The New Republic, at 31 (Sept. 28, 1998) (Book Review of The Bill of Rights by Akhil Reed Amar & For the People by Akhil Reed Amar and Alan Hirsch) (Word version)

More is Less, in The New Republic, at 37 (May 18, 1998) (Book Review of Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James Scott) (Word version)

Even Beef Can Be Libeled, in The New York Times, at 29 (January 22, 1998) (discussing the “mad cow disease” lawsuit against Ophrah Winfrey) (Word version)

Reinforce The Walls Of Privacy, in The New York Times at 23 (September 6, 1997) (discussing the issue of celebrities’ privacy in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death) (Word version)

Porn on the Fourth of July, in The New Republic at 42 (January 9, 1995) (Book Review of Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Nadine Strossen) (Word version)

Henry Jenkins: Selected Articles

-“Game On! The Future of Literacy Education in a Participatory Media Culture,” Threshold, Winter 2006, reprinted on New Media Literacies Web site.

Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked,” The Video Game Revolution, PBS, undated.

-“Welcome to Convergence Culture,” Receiver, March 2005.

Chasing Bees, Without a Hive Mind,” Technology Review, December 2004.

Taking Media in Our Own Hands,” Technology Review, November 2004.

The Tomorrow That Never Was,” Technology Review, October 2004.

The Myths of Growing Up Online,” Technology Review, September 2004.

When Piracy Becomes Promotion,” Technology Review, August 2004.

Bombay Awakes,” Technology Review, July 2004.

Photoshop for Democracy,” Technology Review, June 2004.

Playing Politics in Alphaville,” Technology Review, May 2004. Reprinted in Telemedium, Spring 2005.

Look, Listen, Walk,” Technology Review, April 2004

The Christian Media Counterculture,” Technology Review, March 2004.

Why Heather Can Write,” Technology Review, February 2004

The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence,” International Journal of Cultural Studies, Spring 2004

-“The War Between Effects and Meaning: Rethinking Video Game Violence,” Independent Schools, Spring 2004

Media Literacy Goes to School,Technology Review, January 2004

-“Harnessing the Power in Video Games,” INSIGHT, vol. 3, 2003

Media Literacy Begins at Home,Technology Review, December 2003

War Games,Technology Review, November 2003

-“Meaningful Violence,” co-authored with Kurt Squire, Computer Games, November 2003

-“To Inform AND Entertain,” The Ivory Tower, International Game Developers Association, October 2003

Enter The Cybercandidates,Technology Review, October 2003

-“Refreshing,” co-authored with Kurt Squire, Computer Games, October 2003

Selling Online Content—25 Cents at a Time,Technology Review, September 2003

-“Understanding Civilization (III),” co-authored with Kurt Squire, Computer Games, September 2003

Videogame Virtue,Technology Review, August 2003

-“Democratizing Games,” co-authored with Kurt Squire, Computer Games, August 2003

Playing Our Song?,Technology Review, July 2003

“Sensory Overload,” co-authored with Kurt Squire, Computer Games, July 2003

Convergence Is Reality,Technology Review, June 2003

SimTreadmill,” co-authored with Kurt Squire, Computer Games, June 2003

Media Tonic for War Fever,Technology Review, May 2003

-“The Limbaugh Baby,” co-authored with Kurt Squire, Computer Games, May 2003

Celluloid Heroes Evolve,Technology Review, April 2003

-“Playing Together, Staying Together,” co-authored with Kurt Squire, Computer Games, April 2003

The Diversity Divide,Technology Review, March 2003

Science Fiction and Smart Mobs,Technology Review, February 2003

Transmedia Storytelling,Technology Review, January 2003

The Aging Net,Technology Review, December 2002

Love Online,Technology Review, October 2002

-“Coming Up Next: Ambushed on Donahue,Salon, September 2002

Placement, People,Technology Review, September 2002

The Chinese Columbine,Technology Review, August 2002

Treating Viewers as Criminals,Technology Review, July 2002

Power to the Players,Technology Review, June 2002

Will the Web Save Comics?Technology Review, May 2002

Cyberspace and Race,” Technology Review, April 2002.

Game Theory,” Technology Review, March 2002

Blog This,” Technology Review, February 2002.

Of Trek and TiVo,” Technology Review, January 2002.

A Safety Net,” Technology Review, December 2001.

Ratings are Dead; Long Live Ratings,” Technology Review, November 2001.

Tourism With a Twist,” Technology Review, October 2001.

“From Barbie to Mortal Combat: Further Reflections,” presented at Playing By The Rules: The Cultural Policy Challenges of Video Games, U.Chicago, October 2001.

Good News, Bad News,” Technology Review, September 2001.

-“Challenging the Consensus,” Boston Review, Summer 2001.

Culture Goes Global,” Technology Review, July/August 2001.

“Matt Hills Interviews Henry Jenkins,” Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media, Issue 2, 2001.

Convergence? I Diverge.,” Technology Review, June 2001.

TV Tomorrow,” Technology Review, May 2001.

Information Cosmos,” Technology Review, April 2001.

Art Form for the Digital Age,” Technology Review, September/October 2000.

Digital Land Grab,” Technology Review, March/April 2000.

“Lessons from Littleton: What Congress Doesn’t Want to Hear About Youth and Media,” Independent School, Winter 2000.

Professor Jenkins Goes to Washington,” Harper’s Magazine, July 1999.

“Games, the New Lively Art,” in Jeffrey Goldstein (ed.) Handbook for Video Game Studies (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005).

“Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence and Participatory Culture,” in David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins (eds.) Rethinking Media Change (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003).

“Game Design as Narrative Architecture,” in Pat Harrington and Noah Frup-Waldrop (Eds.) First Person (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.)

With Kurt Squire, “The Art of Contested Spaces,” in Lucian King and Conrad Bain (Eds.) Game On (London: Barbican, 2002.)

“Interactive Audiences?: The ‘Collective Intelligence’ of Media Fans” in Dan Harries (ed.), The New Media Book, (London: British Film Institute, 2002)

“Tales of Manhattan: Mapping the Urban Imagination through Hollywood Film,” in Lawrence Vale and Sam Bass Warner (Eds.), Imaging the City: Continuing Struggles and New Directions (Cambridge: CUPR Press, 2001).

“Reception Theory and Audience Research: The Mystery of the Vampire’s Kiss,” in Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams (eds.) Reinventing Film Studies (London: Arnold, 2000).

With Janet Murray, “Before the Holodeck: Tracing Star Trek Through Digital Media,” in Greg Smith (ed.) On a Sliver Platter: CD-ROMS and The Promises of a New Technology (New York: New York University Press, 1999).

With Justine Cassell, “Chess for Girls?: Gender and Computer Games,” From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998).

“‘Complete Freedom of Movement”: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces,” From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games (Cambridge: MIT Press,1998).

“Voices from the Combat Zone: Game Grrlz Talk Back,” From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998).

“The Innocent Child and Other Modern Myths,” The Children’s Culture Reader (New York University Press, 1998).

“The Sensuous Child,” The Children’s Culture Reader (New York University Press, 1998).

“‘Her Suffering Aristocratic Majesty’: The Sentimental Value of Lassie,” in Marsha Kinder (ed.) Kids’ Media Culture (Console-ing Passions) (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999).

“A Conversation with Henry Jenkins,” Interview on the intersections of fan and academic criticism, for Taylor Harrison and Sara Projansky, Enterprise Zones: Critical Positions on Star Trek (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997).

“‘The All-American Handful’: Dennis the Menace, Permissive Childrearing and the Bad Boy Tradition,” in Lynn Spigel and Mike Curtin (eds.) The Revolution Wasn’t Televised: Sixties Television and Social Conflict (New York: Routledge, 1997).

“‘This Fellow Keaton Seems to Be the Whole Show’: The Interrupted Performance in Buster Keaton’s Films,” in Andrew Horton (ed.) Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Junior (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

With Cynthia Jenkins and Shoshanna Green,“‘The Normal Female Interest in Men Bonking’: Selections from Terra Nostra Underground and Strange Bedfellows,”in Cheryl Harris and Alison Alexander (eds.) Theorizing Fandom: Fans, Subculture, and Identity (Hampton Press, 1998).

With Mary Fuller, MIT, “Nintendo and New World Travel Writing: A Dialogue,” in Steven G. Jones (ed.) Cybersociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1995): 57-72.

“Monstrous Beauty and the Mutant Aesthetics: Rethinking Matthew Barney’s Relationship to the Horror Genre”, (to be published in The Wow Climax).

With Henry Jenkins IV, “‘The Monsters Next Door’: A Father-Son Conversation about Buffy, Moral Panic, and Generational Differences,” (To be published in Fans, Gamers, Bloggers)

“‘You Don’t Say That in English!’: The Scandal of Lupe Velez,” (to be published in The Wow Climax).

The Education Arcade:


The Education Arcade explores games that promote learning through authentic and engaging play. TEA’s research and development projects focus both on the learning that naturally occurs in popular commercial games, and on the design of games that more vigorously address the educational needs of players. Our mission is to demonstrate the social, cultural, and educational potentials of videogames by initiating new game development projects, coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts, and informing public conversations about the broader and sometimes unexpected uses of this emerging art form in education.

Education Arcade projects have touched on mathematics, science, history, literacy, and language learning, and have been tailored to a wide range of ages. They have been designed for personal computers, handheld devices and on-line delivery.


The Education Arcade was established by leading scholars of digital games and education. Researchers at MIT explored key issues in the use of a wide variety of media in teaching and learning through the Games-to-Teach Project, a Microsoft-funded initiative with MIT Comparative Media Studies that ran between 2001 and 2003. The project resulted in a suite of conceptual frameworks designed to support learning across math, science, engineering, and humanities curricula. Working with top game designers from industry and with faculty across MIT’s five schools, researchers produced 15 game concepts with supporting pedagogy that showed how advanced math, science and humanities content could be uniquely blended with state-of-the-art game play.

Future Focus

Having sponsored several annual conferences with the Entertainment Software Association at its E3Expo in Los Angeles and having now completed a series of landmark research projects in the field, the Education Arcade looks ahead to help drive new innovations by partnering with educational publishers, media companies, and game developers. Several challenges have severely limited broader development and availability of educational games in the market, including the collapse of the CD-ROM software market, the failure of educational media in retail spaces, strict state adoption requirements, expensive production costs, and limited collaboration across the variety of disciplines needed to create compelling and educationally viable interactive media. By working with partners in a variety of media, the Education Arcade aims to help overcome these formidable challenges by focusing on an initial set of strategically targeted, educationally proven, and expertly developed and produced on-line computer games that will be distributed through desktop computers and mobile devices.


Interesting and related MIT discussions, debates, lectures and panels.

  • The Future of Civic Engagement in a Broadband-Enabled World Eugene Huang
  • Collaboration and Collective Intelligence Trebor Scholz, Cory Ondrejka and Mizuko (Mimi) Ito
  • Death of the News? Jason Pontin, Susan Glasser and Maria Balinska
  • Focus on Educational Innovation

    Remember the phrase used By Benkler and Jenkins; “Critical Optimism”.

    The good the bad and the ugly.

    In conversation with Henry Jenkins, these speakers don’t so much square off as share their hopes and fears for the emergence of online democracy.

    The first order of business, instructs Jenkins, is taking stock of the current “communication space” to assess whether current practices encourage the growth of digital democracy.
    Cass Sunstein gives the Internet a C-, for its “babble and excellence…brilliant insight and cruelty, that are not from the standpoint of self-government…what we deserve.”
    Yochai Benkler, describing the “good public sphere,” focuses less on sheer freedom of expression, and more on how people participate in “production of an agenda,” and how they are enabled to “investigate, pursue, differ, err, correct and discuss.”  

    Sunstein bemoans the common opinion in the “geek world” that if you’re sovereign over your own options, you can “declare victory and go home.” In Sunstein’s version of a well-functioning system of communication, “you don’t construct a daily me, your communications cocoon, your little information chamber,” but embrace “unanticipated exposure and shared experience.” Such moments energize people, shifting them from passivity to active citizenship, declares Sunstein.

    Benkler sees the Internet as couched in the larger framework of power and elites, where government or commercially directed mass media typically produce our common experiences. But now, with the Web, “instead of having a few hundred or a few thousand people with a genuine ability to set the agenda, we instead have two to three million people who believe they can affect the agenda without kidding themselves too badly. That seems like a larger population that can push on power.” This is a “significant change in citizenship from the idea of sitting in front of the TV.” He finds particularly attractive organizations like Netroots, which prod traditional political parties in certain directions.

    But there’s a possibility for fragmentation, and even dangerous polarization, Sunstein worries, with online communities clustering around similar interests and erecting bulwarks against contrary thinking. “The notion that freedom of choice, the ability to self-select and produce our own information content is a full cure for what ails us, runs into obstacles,” he says [PDF download link]. Benkler, though, believes the tendency to “tell each other how great and right we are and how wrong they are” is a plausible description “of how we’ve always been.” He is happily observing a new generation of children grow up deeply imbedded in new technologies that help them develop an “attitude of seeking and being able to find.”

    Sunstein summons his muse, Jane Jacobs, to describe his ideal: an Internet metropolis that mirrors the best an American city offers. “Walking along some street, you see a person, interaction, building that stuns you…If you really look, the fertility and surprise of that will alter what you’re interested in, what you care about, your aesthetic and even political sense.” Sunstein dreams of a digital world designed for serendipity, as well as norms of interaction, (such as on Wikipedia) that promote collaboration, self-correction and the prevention of lies and cruelty.

    Location: Bartos Theater